Igarra is endowed with very rich culture, some of their annual festivals/feasts are:-
- Irepa – Celebrated Every Six Years
A yearly festival which is celebrated to appease our fore-fathers, mothers and relations who have joined their ancestors. Kola-nut is used for this purpose and this is performed by the eldest man in each (IRENWOPO) family group. During this feast the eldest in the family reverence certain inanimate objects such as stones and trees and propitiate the spirit of the dead with libations and sacrifices. It is believed that these spirits of the dead control the destiny of the living. It is done in two phrases Okoreba and Okoruvete. The celebration is concluded with fanfare, Ikede dances, exchange of gifts and picnics. This festival is inherited from the Anafuas. The Okorebas are: All Eziakuta, Ezioga, and Eziodu families, half of Eshinagada, half of Eshimozoko, Andiba, Anosere etc. The Okoruvete comprises of all the Eshinavaka family all Anona family, part of Eshinagada, part of Eshinmozoko, and Anonyete family.
This festival is in fulfillment of the promise made by our great grand-father who led the migrants to Igarra – Ariwo Ovejijo to appease the soil of Etuno yearly as instructed by Uno hence the song “ORISHI CHE, OI CHE OROKOTOIKPO” meaning rain and sun come and bless our soil. The materials and instruments for the appeasement are in custody of the reigning Otaru who normally performs the ceremony. Farm implements or instruments are not seen on this day. Woe betides whoever passes away on this day. It signifies a bad death for the person and the family in general.
It is believed that whoever dies on this day is never accepted by the Aneku Oiza but goes to Orokoto which is the biblical hell. Since farm implements are not seen on this day, the person is buried in IRISHI – soak-away. Deaths on this day nowadays are never announced or made public until after the feast to save the family name.
It is the new yam festival celebrated every year. It marks the harvesting of new yam. The date of this festival is usually fixed by a man from the Ezuakuta family during Osisiakemete. It is a feast preceding the Enu festival believed to be an appeasement of the god of harvest with guinea-corn. On the day of Enu festival, farm instruments are not used. They are meant to rest on this day. These instruments are gathered in one corner of the house and white and red “Omisi,” mashed boiled yam with or without red oil, are poured on them as libations. The feast is concluded with merriments.
A feast celebrated mainly for girls who are ripe given out to eligible husbands. Agada drum is the popular drum beaten for them on this day. This same Agada drum is beaten for women when they join their ancestors.
This festival is celebrated once in six years. It is believed to be inherited from the aborigines (Anafuas and Andokonis). It is a way of effective administration of the town. The term of office of each age-group spans through six years. It is the time when people graduate from one age-group to the other and a new one formed.
The Opozes – the sixth age-group in Igarra graduates from that to join the Council of Elders (Azebani). The Opoga which is the fifth age-group graduates to the Opoze age group, while the fourth goes to the fifth an so on to the first age group. The first age-group, though not initiated are referred to as “OPAFUAFU” or “OPENEPERE. Young men of between twenty to twenty-four years come together to form this age-group. These young men do not have specific role to play in Igarra. They graduate to the second age-group after six years, with specific roles and specific name by which they are now called. It means therefore that before one gets to the Azebani, one must have attained the age of 60-65 years.
The following are the past and present age-group names in ascending order or magnitude.
1. Opafuafu (Anivede)|
8. Egeremi (IFARI)
1. Apine (Telling of Lies)
It is the first event of the Irepa festival. There a rock – big and flat -at Enachi quarters near the boundary between Somorika and Igarra. This rock is called the stone of lies (Ireta-Apine). Members of the new age-group being initiated, climb the stone and the customary father’s age-group i.e., the third age-group in the hierarchy and the other senior age-groups tell lies against these new members. They forment lies and the supposed offenders pay some fines – not more than one kobo in the olden day. This event does not give members any chance to defend themselves. The ceremony begins in the early hours of the morning and ends at midday.
This event is followed immediately by Itutanebe dance after one or two days. The significances of this is to prepare the new age-group to accept the verdict of their elders until they get to the Opoga (i.e. for the next twenty-four years)
2. Itutanebe (Itutanebe Dance)
It is the dance of the youth and is the second event of the Irepa festival. The “Opafuafu” or Openepere are initiated into this second age-group dance though recognized as the first in Igarra, as the Opafuafu have no specific role to play. They now have specific name and specific role to play in the town like digging of grace and clearing of public places. The ance is started at Ugbogbo quarters with all the members in shorts (preferably white) without shirt or singlet. In the days of our forefather, calico was used, sewn into “Okeyin” or “Asunu”.
The Ugbogbo members dance with only shorts on, to Uffa quarters. This is followed by the Uttue members dancing to Uffa aftr four months. The Uffa group, demono Uttu on the fifth day after the Uttu group.
The significance of this dance is just to present the new age-group to the public. In addition to this, it is a way of proving to the entire Anotuno that one would be capable of withstanding the ordeal; and that one is not in-capacitated deformed or maimed, hence they dance stark naked. It is forbidden to make any call or branch of the way during the dance of fall down when dancing.
These are guarded against by the Customary Fathers age who prevent people from going into the midst of the age-group during the dance “Itutalegbe is the only song sang to and from Uffa, Uffa – Uttua, Uttua – Uffa. It is on record that it always rains on this day.
3. Aba Drum (Beating of:)
The beating of Agba drum is the third stage of the Irepa Festival. It takes place on an Ude day – Ude is one of ten days in the four-day calendar of Igarra). It is usually preceded by the new yam festival. In the morning of the day, every family kindred (Irenwopo) goes on pounded yam,. People go from house to house feasting on bowls of pounded yam.
In the mid-day, the celebrants, i.e. those entering the Azebani with their families start gathering at the Opoporim market. Ugbogbo, Uttua and Uffa quarter’s celebrants, all converge here. Before the advent of modern technology, clothes worn on this day by the celebrants is their best calico (Itun cloth. This has gradually given way to white linen clothes and the affluent among the members even wear the expensive white lace material and white shoes to match.
The celebrants all climb the Agidibobo stone for the last time after which they descent, giving way to the out-going of who climb in turn which makes their taking over from their predecessors as new Opozes. Still in the Opoporiku arena, the comes the beating of the real drum called Agba. During the beating of the drum the Asebni-to-be dance anti-clock wise while the poze-to-be dance clock wise.
As early as 4 O’clock in the early hours of the morning the rest of the members would start to join them. All the members, after climbing this rock are not expected to descent it until sunset. The dance therefore spans through the whole day. During the day the wives, friends and relations of the members of the initiated bring foods and drinks to the participating members of the age-group. The customary father’s age-group comes to pursue or drive them out of this Ida as from about 5 O.clock in the evening. The time interval between Agba drum and the climbing of the rock is about two months.
4. Aza-Agagana (carrying of Cactus)
Agagana in English means Cactus – a type of Xerophytic plant with lots of thorns. This is the fifth stage of the ceremony and the principal actors are again the newly initiated group. The members are usually led by two people who are known as Odovidiopa (one from Okoreba and the other from Okoruvete specifically Eshinavaka and Esiakuta families respectively. One leading from the rear and the other from the front. The rest of the members carrying a piece of the plant in hand, all move in a file or queue. The Agagana is from Upogo hills. The time interval between agagana and Ida climbing of rock is egeta – (8 days)
5. Anova Dance (Ezanova)
The interval between the carrying of Agagana and Esanova is about egeshi – 15 days. For convenience and to allow these feast to fall on weekends, to enable people abroad to travel and attend it, it does not hold any longer i.e. it is not compulsory to be 15 days interval.
This means that the specific days of interval between each state of the ceremonies is no longer fixed. This Anova dance is the last ceremony in which the newly initiated age-group participate actively.
Most stages, of the Irepa ceremony usually begins in Ugbogbo quarters and ends in Uffa quarters and this stage is not an exception. The Ugbogbo members of this initiated age-group start their own first, followed by Uffa quarters after egeshi (15 days) and finally followed by Uttua members after 5 days. The member dance round the quarters, each holding a horse-tail. Some prefer putting it on their shoulders. It was not compulsory for the initiates to be in a uniform dress in the olden day, but nowadays it is compulsory to buy a uniformed dress preferably Agbada. The dand ends at Opoporiku for the Ugbogbo members and Orere-Une for Uttua and Uffa members. This dance starts from Ivareke for Ugbogbo people. Irrespective of the family one belongs to, the dance starts in unison. A separate drumming is allowed by individual family only after the collective one terminates at Opoporiku and or Orere-une.
6. Arido Drum (Beating of)
This is the seventh stage of the Irepa Festival. It is in three phases. The first phase is on the egeta (8 days) after the Anova dance. The drum is beaten from Uffa and ends at Orere-une. After another egeta (8 days) it is again beaten from Orere-une to Uttua. Lastly, it is beaten to Ugbogbo – opoporiku – the site for the beating of Agba drum, after another (8 days). This is the grandest of the three as this pull more crowd similar to the beating of Agba drum.
There is again the test of strength among the youths of Ugbogbo and (Uttua and Uffa) combine – similar to that of Agba drum in struggling for possession of a particular drum. It is not a violent encounter. After this episode, the drums are returned to where they are permanently kept in Ebo.
The history of Arido drum began from the inheritance of these drums from the aborigenes – Anafuas and Andokonis. These drums were inherited from them by three separate families just as other drums were inherited by other families. (I shall discuss these drumming in detail in the section of Leisures of the people) The Eshinagada family inherited the biggest of the three drums while the Eshimozoko own the smaller and the smallest owned by the Anoseri family. Some of the songs of the Arido drum are: “Awevi Awevi go; ovejijo, Ido visa zabaniayo. Ido ye ro etc. in honour of the founder of Igarra Overjijo and the daughter princess Awevi the other of Ozoko.
7. Ochionine (Tree Burying)
This is the eight stage of the grand Irepa celebration. This is celebrated fifteen days (egeshi) after the Arido drum dance. For convenience it is now celebrated on a weekend to enable indigenes who are members to travel from abroad to attend the ceremony.
The venue of the ceremony is Uffa and this is performed at Irebe Omondu. The preliminaries are done in secret and hence it is not for public consumption. The Odovidiopa – leader or the new Opoze performs this burying of the tree stem.
This aspect of the ceremony, though done in the public has some secret undertnes which no one is allowed to see except the age-group concerned. The procession carrying the stem of the tree is severely guarded to avoid the glimpse of the “Third eye”. Woe betide whoever tries to catch a glimpse of the content of the procession. This method of procession has since given way to civilization whereby it is now performed in a solemn and organized way.
Uffa quarters: – the venue of the ceremony is divided into six sub-quarters namely:- Abasama, Aribe, Une, Aboro and Orere. The drums and crew carrying the tree first dance to the sub-quarter or streets in the order stated above. The dancing troupe is greeted into the arena of the occasion with booming of guns and deafening ovation. The new Azebanis dance to the drumming with their walking stick (Ofa) and their families. The occasion is brought to an end when the celebrants – Opozes disappear from the arena with their stem to Ebo where no one will see it till the next six years.
8. Ogigarofu (Scattering the Market)
This is also known as “Afuofu”. It is the 9th stage of the festival and this marks the end of the collective ceremonies of the Irepa Festival. It is done in the three quarters of Igarra separately beginning with Ubobo quarters as usual. This is usually done on an Amomo day and this is followed by Uttua after egeta (8 days). On the following egeta (8 days) it is completed by the Uffa quarters.
Both major and minor chieftaincy title have a similar pattern of ceremony. This Irepa chieftaincy title taking is the last stage of the ceremony. It is one on individual basis. It ushers the graduating Opozes into the Council of Elders. The Azebani titles are conferred on all members before any Ipoje title in conferred on any willing person. Ipoje title is not a compulsory title and hence it is of no significances in Igarra administration.
In all cases a man must seek the blessing and approval of his house or section to join or move into a new age-group.
Conferment of Chieftaincy and Azebani Title
The climax of the Irepa festival is the coneferment of chieftancy and azebani titles on members of the opoze after which they become azebanis or council of elders.
Chieftaincy and Azebani titles (major and minor) are conferred in Ivishe where there is an Arigede – i.e. in the palace of a reigning Otaru or a ragent to the throne, if an Otaru is indisposed. The object of the conferment is made of ladles filled with wine (pitto) and kola-nuts. The celebrants i.e. the Azebani and his wife/wives kneel in front of the Otaru and after praying and pouring libations, he splits the kole and the “Eye’ of the kola-nuts are thrown away with the left hand signifying tha whoever thinks bad for the celebrants. The ‘eye’ of the kola-nut would prevent any harm intended for the man. After all these, the title name is made public by the Otaru. After pronouncement, Arigede drum is sounded and beaten after the man to his house. The Arigede is then returned leaving the Ozi and Isue in the man’s house. This is followed by an all-night music in the man’s house with drinking and eating.
This part of the ceremony is well organized that two celebrants do not take title the same day. In addition to that there is a laid down rule that people don’t take title that do not belong to their family. For example, the title Okomayin is the highest title in Igarra next to the Otaru. It is only taken by the five royal families – Andede, Eshinagada, Eshinogun, Eshinvaka and Andiba.
Ukana is another title not taken by any other military except Eshimozoko family who are kingmakers. The name is next in rank to Okomayin. The title Amune is for the Ezi family and perhaps also the Anonyete family while Oseh title is for Eziobes and sometimes for the Anonyete family. Etc. This ceremony continue on individual basis every Amomo market day, hence every Ude is an Ogomosa day or Isieremsere day. These are the event that accompany the title taking on Amomo day. This individual activities span through the four working day. On the third day after the conferment of the title the Azebani is formally accepted into the fold of the council of elders after a short ceremony. From that day henceforth the man is then called by this chieftaincy title name. This chieftaincy title taking extends over a period of one to two years depending on the numbers of the graduating Opozes. Those members who could not perform the individual title taking due to financial constraints or in-capacitation does it at their convenienc; but it hs to be done before the beginning of the next Irepa ceremony i.e before the next six years.